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Is it a ‘Fannie and Freddie’ moment for lithium technology in the US?

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 12:39 -- John Shepherd

Safety concerns are top of the battery agenda again, as we reveal regulators' fears that the currently unexplained explosion at a grid-scale BESS plant in Arizona could trigger a review of safety standards. This could in turn spill over into the US residential storage market.

The US now joins South Korea at the tipping point of lithium battery fires. As far as the US is concerned, could this be a Fannie and Freddie moment— akin to the subprime mortgage crisis?

Utility chiefs and regulators in Arizona have said: "Batteries are the future for the US." If lithium technology is so important to that future and cannot be allowed to fail, then the industry needs to get a grip— and quickly.

Batteries of every chemistry have the potential to enjoy a bright future, if the plethora of projects and deals we report on in this issue are anything to go by. 

As we predicted last week, Sweden's Northvolt has secured the funds it needs to build what could be Europe's first commercial battery cells plant. Germany's VW is now a contender too, with a mystery partner backing its gigafactory plan.

But Chinese and Korean firms continue to tighten their grip on the EV battery supply market in Europe— this time in deals with Volvo. And despite geopolitical tensions between Seoul and Beijing, Korea's SK Innovation is to further expand in China. Even the UK's Moixa has not been held back by the Brexit debate in attracting international investors for its battery technology. 

Read the latest battery news here on our web site first. Remember, we publish a weekly round-up in BEST Battery Briefing— FREE every Monday— highlighting stories we've covered over the past week. Sign up for the newsletter by clicking here and if you're already a recipient and find BBB useful, please forward it to friends.

Meanwhile, make sure you've subscribed to Batteries & Energy Storage Technology (BEST) magazine— the world's leading publication on battery manufacture and design and the emerging field of large-scale electrical energy storage. The Spring 2019 issue is out now!

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Has UK shot itself in the foot as starting pistol is fired in giga race?

Tue, 05/14/2019 - 13:45 -- John Shepherd

The race to the gigafactory finishing line in Europe is now well and truly under way, but who will be first or could it be a photo finish?

Tesvolt, as we report this week, is trumpeting its expansion of operations towards hitting 'giga' status, but the company is being coy about its schedule. So there could be all to play for if Northvolt gets its mega loan this week to build a commercial lithium-ion cells production facility in Sweden.

But the strangest of our stories this week has to be the news that the UK could consider pushing up taxes on low-carbon technologies such as battery storage. 

Regular readers of BEST Battery Briefing will know the UK government has been busy promoting its investments in battery tech over the past couple of years. In fact, PM Theresa May was crowing about her support for renewables when it was confirmed that Britain had had its first week without using electricity from burning coal since the 1880s. This crazy tax hike proposal should be shredded long before it gets within reach of a ministerial desk!

Read the latest battery news here on our web site first. Remember, we publish a weekly round-up in BBB— FREE every Monday— highlighting stories we've covered over the past week. Sign up for the newsletter by clicking here and if you're already a recipient and find BBB useful, please forward it to friends.

Meanwhile, make sure you've subscribed to Batteries & Energy Storage Technology (BEST) magazine— the world's leading publication on battery manufacture and design and the emerging field of large-scale electrical energy storage. The Spring 2019 issue is out now!

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Digging into deep pockets to strike battery gold

Wed, 05/08/2019 - 10:50 -- John Shepherd

It's going to take deep pockets to get Europe's fledgling Battery Alliance firing on all cylinders, so the EU is bringing in some heavy financial hitters to shore up the investment needed to secure a raw materials supply chain— one of the top stories in the latest edition of our BEST Battery Briefing e-newsletter has revealed.

The details are sketchy and it remains to be seen how the 'raw materials investment facility' will work in practice. But there's a global spending race under way to guarantee supplies of lithium battery 'gold' for the future, so cracking open the European piggy bank seems a good place to start.

Across the pond, it's refreshing to hear from BCI's annual get together that Uncle Sam is not going to be penny pinching when it comes to investing in battery tech for the future— and that the federal government is making sure Pb is given all the consideration and credit it deserves. 

But one wonders just how much the impact of fires involving lithium storage facilities in the US, South Korea and elsewhere will have on the outlook for investment in that sector in the near term.

Read the latest battery news here on our web site first. Remember, we publish a weekly round-up in BEST Battery Briefing— FREE every Monday— highlighting stories we've covered over the past week. Sign up for the newsletter by clicking here and if you're already a recipient and find BBB useful, please forward it to friends.

Meanwhile, make sure you've subscribed to Batteries & Energy Storage Technology (BEST) magazine— the world's leading publication on battery manufacture and design and the emerging field of large-scale electrical energy storage. The Spring 2019 issue is out now!

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Lead-acid picks up rhythm in New Orleans

Tue, 04/30/2019 - 16:26 -- John Shepherd

The mood music for this week’s gathering of the lead-acid faithful at Battery Council International’s annual convention, this year in New Orleans, promises to be upbeat.

The lead industry in Europe recently faced down— for now at least— proposals attacking the manufacture of lead-acid batteries. 

And a new ‘roadmap’ setting out future opportunities for lead technology— including in storage applications— will also be unveiled at BCI by the newly-launched Consortium for Battery Innovation.

The storage market is a key battleground for battery makers of every technological hue, which is why some 30 companies have signed a commitment to “prioritise” safety, as we report on our web site.

Battery producers and users are alert to the persistent safety concerns surrounding lithium-ion batteries. Their safety pledge came just days before an explosion at a lithium-ion BESS facility in the US grabbed the headlines.

Safety must always come first, but reputational risk is now on the line more than ever. 

Read the latest battery news here on our web site first. Remember, we publish a weekly round-up in our BEST Battery Briefing e-newsletter— FREE every Monday— highlighting stories we've covered over the past week. Sign up for the newsletter by clicking here and if you're already a recipient and find BBB useful, please forward it to friends.

Meanwhile, make sure you've subscribed to Batteries & Energy Storage Technology (BEST) magazine— the world's leading publication on battery manufacture and design and the emerging field of large-scale electrical energy storage. The Spring 2019 issue is out now!

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Lead strikes oil as investors drill down on storage tech

Tue, 04/23/2019 - 11:27 -- John Shepherd

Whatever “new” technology India’s state-owned oil corporation may be teasing the Pb market with, the announcement we report on in the latest edition of BEST Battery Briefing fits a global pattern of fossil-fuel corporates (think of Shell, BP and Total) moving into battery storage tech.

Indian Oil has already signed a technology tie-up with an aluminium-air battery start-up, but the corporation’s strong backing for lead-acid shows there is still traction, and attraction, for Pb storage.

Lithium still claims dominance in the energy storage sector— but the potential for lead is highlighted in a new online map of more than 120 projects worldwide. The Consortium for Battery Innovation has launched the map ahead of its unveiling of a new technology roadmap for lead— click here to read more about that in the spring 2019 edition of our quarterly BESTmag.

Lithium is of course still regarded as king of the EV road, but Elon Musk’s latest Twitter outburst about battery partner Panasonic highlights the pressures involved in advancing battery tech to stay ahead in the commercial fast lane.

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Battery partners to tighten their embrace?

Tue, 04/16/2019 - 16:37 -- John Shepherd

The relationship between SK Innovation and Volkswagen could be about to get a whole lot closer if, according to one of our latest reports, the pair go ahead and launch a joint battery-making business.

VW only recently expanded its Asian network of electric vehicle battery suppliers to include SKI. But more intriguing is SKI potentially also cosying up for a separate partnership with one or more Chinese players.

China and South Korea remain intense battery rivals, despite some commercial battery ties between the two. However, regional rivalries could easily be set aside in a united front to jointly take on competitors elsewhere.

And if geopolitics is your thing, there’s more food for thought in Western Australia’s move to follow through on its aspirations to join the big battery league. That region of the lucky country in particular is sitting on plenty of battery mineral riches that could give it a winning hand with the right stewardship. Watch this space!

Read the latest battery news here on our web site first. Remember, we publish a weekly round-up in our BEST Battery Briefing e-newsletter— FREE every Monday— highlighting stories we've covered over the past week. Sign up for the newsletter by clicking here and if you're already a recipient and find BBB useful, please forward it to friends.

Meanwhile, make sure you've subscribed to Batteries & Energy Storage Technology (BEST) magazine— the world's leading publication on battery manufacture and design and the emerging field of large-scale electrical energy storage. The Spring 2019 issue is out now!

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Time to recharge thinking on batteries

Mon, 04/08/2019 - 16:38 -- John Shepherd

It’s high time to recharge Europe’s thinking on batteries.

As we report this week, it’s taken a bunch of bureaucratic number crunchers to tell EU leaders what anyone who works in the battery industry has known for a while.

According to the European Court of Auditors, EU plans to build a world-class battery cells industry are lagging behind international competitors. And work to date has focused too much on existing rather than “breakthrough” technologies.

Elections will soon usher in a new European Parliament and Commission and the first order of business should be to rethink and recharge policies on batteries and energy storage technology.

The newcomers in Brussels would also do well to heed the call from the International Lead Association and actively embrace all battery technologies. If they don’t, EU aspirations to challenge Asian competitors and others in the battery market will go nowhere fast.

We’ve also got the inside story on a new joint venture deal between France’s Saft and Chinese lead-acid battery group Tianneng Energy Technology.

Read the latest battery news here on our web site first. Remember, we publish a weekly round-up in our BEST Battery Briefing e-newsletter— FREE every Monday— highlighting stories we've covered over the past week. Sign up for the newsletter by clicking here and if you're already a recipient and find BBB useful, please forward it to friends.

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Words to the battery wise on April Fool's Day

Tue, 04/02/2019 - 16:09 -- John Shepherd

In some countries, news outlets mark the first day of April by publishing ridiculous stories with false claims— and give just enough clues to help readers ‘get’ the joke. 

In the UK, it might be harder to distinguish fantasy from reality amid the tomfoolery this year, given the twists and turns of the Brexit saga.

However, visitors to this web site and readers of BEST Battery Briefing (BBB) can rest assured there’s no make-believe here. We’re not being prudish, but we believe solid journalism trumps fake news, such as our coverage of further expansion into Europe by Asian battery players Leoch International and SK Innovation.

We’ve also got the inside story on scientists who have joined the battery of criticism over proposals to restrict the use of lead-acid in the EU.

Read the latest news here first as it happens. And if you think BBB’s global coverage is useful, forward the latest issue of our weekly news round-up to a friend.

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It takes two to tango in the batteries dance

Mon, 03/25/2019 - 10:29 -- John Shepherd

Germany is back in the batteries spotlight again this week. The economy minister has warned EV and battery producers that state aid alone will not help build a battery cells production industry to challenge the likes of China. More than a little entrepreneurial zeal will be needed too, according to Peter Altmaier.

The minister is of course right, but industry leaders are only going to shake more cash out of their shareholders and investors if there is political support at the highest levels. After all, it takes two to tango.

To be fair, Germany does appear to be putting its money where its mouth is in terms of building a European batteries base. But, as one of our other latest stories shows, a next-generation 'green' battery empire needs to be built on sustainable— and ethical— foundations. Can Europe rise to that challenge? 

These stories and more are among the latest in our website's around-the-clock coverage of the batteries industry— the highlights of which can be delivered to your inbox every Monday in our weekly e-newsletter round-up, BEST Battery BriefingClick here to sign up FREE!

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Leclanché hints at battery tech 'breakthrough'

Mon, 03/11/2019 - 00:00 -- John Shepherd

Is Europe picking up the pace on batteries? The answer is 'yes'… if initial indications reported by BEST Battery Briefing are anything to go by.

Although Switzerland-based battery company Leclanché is playing its cards close to its chest, CEO Anil Srivastava revealed to BBB the firm is promising to introduce a "breakthrough" battery technology as part of its contribution to a German government-backed consortium for battery development. Although based in Switzerland, Leclanché has a strong manufacturing base in Germany.

Meanwhile, Munich Re has launched a battery performance insurance policy which already has its first taker— US-based all-iron flow battery maker Energy Storage Systems. The insurance product could help boost investor confidence when it comes to backing major energy storage projects, which is just the kind of innovation the sector needs to move ahead.

These stories are just a couple of the latest from our rolling web site coverage of the batteries industry and included in our weekly e-newsletter round-up. Click here to sign up FREE!

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